Schoolhouse Garden Restoration

On Saturday, the volunteer group met at the Old Schoolhouse on the Portaferry Road.  This had originally been built to educate the children of the staff who worked on the Mount Stewart Estate.  In more recent years, it had been used as accommodation for Mount Stewart’s previous Head Gardener and his family.  Since then, it has been the office for the team of National Trust Wardens who manage the countryside sites around Strangford Lough, with volunteer accommodation at the other end.

Schoolhouse

There is a small garden at the back of the schoolhouse.  This must have been full of colourful and exotic plants while the Head Gardener lived there. But unfortunately, since he moved out, it has been abandoned and allowed to overgrow.  Although this garden is not open to the public, it is a shame to see it so neglected and full of weeds.

So we decided to spend a day working in the garden, to see if we could make some basic improvements.

Garden

The shrubs and bushes were cut down in size and brambles and ivy removed.  This really opened up the garden and revealed paths, walls and other features that had long been obscured from sight.  At times, we felt like archaeologists, cutting back the overgrown jungle to uncover evidence of a long-lost civilisation.

clearing path

The beds were so overgrown that we decided it would be best to dig everything out.  The soil was then thoroughly dug over and we removed as many roots and weeds as we could.

digging garden

There were many salvageable plants, which we were able to divide and replant.  However, working out exactly what they were was definitely the most challenging part of the day.

Phil+William

Although the garden will never come close to being returned to its former glory, we hope that our efforts have certainly made worthwhile improvements.  This will be an ongoing project and we’re looking forward to the challenge of trying to keep the garden under control.  And we’re anticipating exciting new discoveries as everything starts to grow and flower in the coming seasons.

As we packed up at the end of the day, we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the lough.

schoolhouse sunset

We all remarked on what a wonderful place this must have been to live and work.  Perhaps even going to school wasn’t always that bad either.

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About National Trust Volunteer Group

We are a group of National Trust Countryside Wardens and Volunteers who regularly get together to do a number of interesting projects to inhance our countryside and wildlife. We spend most of our time around the internationally important site of Strangford Lough and some near by countryside sites. If you ever fancy joining us for a day out, you will be made most welcome.
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